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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

unproduced screenplay: ‘Cat & Mouse’ Part 1

CAT & MOUSE
Written by MaryAnn Johanson

FADE IN:

EXT. WOODS – DREAM SEQ – DAY

The POV of a man (white, 30s) as he stumbles through the woods. Look down: branches and dried leaves CRACKLE underfoot.

END DREAM SEQUENCE
INT. RURAL COLORADO POLICE STATION – NITE

A small, quiet storefront outpost. Through the window, a single lamppost just barely illuminates predawn Main Street, deserted. This could be anywhere in small-town Middle America.

Outside, a patrol car pulls in to park.

THE COLORADO COP (white, male, 30s) lounges, his feet kicked up on one of two beat-up desks. He reads a newspaper — the headline: FBI CHASES STRANGLER ACROSS 3 STATES.

The police radio crackles fitfully.

A JUNIOR OFFICER enters. He carries diner takeout coffee and pastries, deposits a paper hot cup and a donut on the Colorado Cop’s desk.

  • JUNIOR OFFICER
  • Mildred says to tell you that you are officially a dumbshit, boss, for taking the night shift your first day back.

The Colorado Cop laughs.

  • JUNIOR OFFICER
  • Whaddaya doin’ back, anyway? I thought you were gonna take some time off after that conference.
  • THE COLORADO COP
  • Oh, I did a little hunting on my way home.

The junior officer nods at the newspaper.

  • JUNIOR OFFICER
  • They keep up, feds are gonna end up in our neck.
  • THE COLORADO COP
  • I sure hope not.

EXT. WOODS – DREAM SEQ – DAY

As before. The unseen man’s HEAVY BREATHING — fear, or excitement? — as he stumbles through the undergrowth.

END DREAM SEQUENCE

INT. DINGY MOTEL – NITE

A bare bulb hangs from the low ceiling, sheds sickly light on a scrapbook, open on the bed.

The scrapbook is full of lovingly pasted newspaper and magazine articles — the headlines cry STRANGLER TAKES ANOTHER VICTIM, 3 WOMEN KILLED, MANHUNT FOR SERIAL KILLER, 8 WOMEN DEAD.

THE FAN (white, male, 30s) hums happily as he flips through the book, pauses to gaze at magazine and newspaper snapshots of smiling women, all white, around 30, with long brown hair.

The Fan comes to a blank page in the scrapbook. He takes scissors and a clipping from a loose pile on the bed and trims the article to the fit the scrapbook page. He hums all the while.

EXT. WOODS – DREAM SEQ – DAY

As before. The unseen man’s HEAVY BREATHING as he comes upon the fully clothed body of a woman (white, 30ish).

The woman lies on her side in the leaves and dirt, her back to the man — she might almost be asleep.

Half her mane of long brown hair lies along her arm, the other half flows down her back — it has been particularly arranged.

END DREAM SEQUENCE

INT. RURAL ROADSIDE DINER – SUNRISE

Deserted except for a bored waitress and THE JOURNALIST (white, male, 30s), who sits at a table near the window, nurses a cup of coffee, smokes a cigarette, contemplates the lightening sky outside.

A portable police scanner on the table crackles.

  • SCANNER VOICE
  • Uh, chief, we got somethin’ out by the turnoff for the old railroad station. You better get out here.

The Journalist reacts with interest, gathers the scanner and an old leather satchel from the seat next to him, drops some change onto the table, and exits the diner.

EXT. WOODS – DREAM SEQ – DAY

As before. The unseen man’s breathing gets faster, shallower as his hand reaches to turn the woman over, look at her face. He begins to roll her over–

END DREAM SEQUENCE

INT. MOTEL #1 ROOM – MORNING

With a SCREAM, THE FBI AGENT (white, male, 30s) awakens, sits bolt upright in bed. He is drenched in sweat; the sheets are in disarray.

He turns toward the RINGING ROOM PHONE, next to his SERVICE WEAPON and CELL PHONE on the bedside table, slows his breathing, picks up the receiver.

  • THE AGENT
  • Yeah?
  • PHONE VOICE
  • We found her.
  • THE AGENT
  • Shit.

EXT. RURAL IOWA ROAD CRIME SCENE – DAY

Several police cars, red and blue lights flashing, are parked askew on the side of the road.

Local cops stand around, talk, drink coffee from paper cups. The area is otherwise deserted.

The Agent’s car — a basic black rental car, Wisconsin plates — pulls up among them.

Cops turn to watch him get out of the car.

EXT. WOODED AREA

The Agent, weary and haggard, follows the local SHERIFF through a copse of trees to a taped-off clearing.

  • SHERIFF
  • Here she is.

A woman (white, 25-35) lies face down in the dirt, her long brown hair arranged as in the Agent’s dream.

  • THE AGENT
  • Just like the others.

The Agent stands stock still, looks at her for a moment. He does not approach or bend down to examine her more closely. He sighs.

  • THE AGENT
  • He’s gone. He’s moved on.

He turns to leave.

  • SHERIFF
  • Don’t you wanna, you know, gather evidence or something?
  • THE AGENT
  • A Bureau forensics team is on its way.

EXT. RURAL ROAD CRIME SCENE

The Agent gets in his car. The loitering cops watch him drive away.

INT./EXT. THE AGENT’S CAR/RURAL ROAD

The car zips along a lonely road.

The Agent sighs wearily as he drives. He reaches for the radio, turns it on. The CHATTER of a talk show fills the car.

The Agent’s fingers drift from the radio to the photo taped to the dash; he caresses the image lovingly. The woman smiling in the photo is white, 30ish, long brown hair.

  • RADIO VOICE #1
  • –turning to more serious news, it looks as if the Brunette Strangler has struck again.
  • RADIO VOICE #2
  • You know, the FBI has specifically asked the media not to make up cutesy names for this wacko.

The Agent grimaces at the radio.

  • RADIO VOICE #1
  • Right, that’s their job. Anyway, we’re getting reports that the local police over in Sheridan County have found the body of that girl that went missing a few days ago.
  • RADIO VOICE #2
  • Dumped off the side of the road?
  • RADIO VOICE #1
  • That’s what we’re hearing. In a related story, The Blonde Antidefamation League has issued the following statement: “Who’re the dumb ones now?”

The Agent switches off the radio in disgust.

The car continues down the road into the distance, past a WELCOME TO NEBRASKA sign.

EXT. RURAL ROAD CRIME SCENE

More activity now. Black FBI sedans surround the local cop cars. White-jumpsuited technicians hover busily around a forensics van. EMS workers load a stretcher bearing a body-bagged body into an ambulance.

The sheriff confers with a deputy.

The Journalist wanders the scene, notebook at the ready. He approaches the sheriff.

  • SHERIFF
  • Get what you need?
  • THE JOURNALIST
  • (indicates the feds)
  • As much as I’m gonna get from this bunch.
  • SHERIFF
  • Have you talked to that other guy?
  • THE JOURNALIST
  • What other guy?
  • SHERIFF
  • Well, he’s gone now. FBI agent. One of them profilers. Says he’s been tracking the killer since Milwaukee. He showed up in town the morning after she disappeared, left as soon as we found her. Said the killer’s moved on.
  • THE JOURNALIST
  • Do you know where he went?
  • SHERIFF
  • Whichever way the killer went, I guess. He seemed to think he could tell which way that was.

EXT. MOTEL #2 – NITE

A small, rural roadside motel. Its neon light flashes, crackles — the NO next to VACANCY flickers on and off. The Agent’s car is parked outside a room door.

INT. MOTEL #2 ROOM

The TV is on low in the background, shows a news report about the most recent murder. An open pizza box sits atop it, the pizza untouched.

The Agent sits on the bed, receiver of the room phone to his ear, listens.

Forensics reports and crime-scene photos and newspaper clippings are spread all around him.

THE PHOTOS

are all of women, 25-35, dead, face down in the dirt, their long dark hair arranged as we’ve seen.

  • THE AGENT
  • So, nothing new, then?… Right… You’ll fax the preliminary forensics report to the local PD in the morning?… Good, okay… Yeah.

He hangs up, rifles through the material on the bed until he finds a map of the Midwest and Plains states.

THE MAP

Points are marked with red stars — lines connect them, 10 of them heading west from Milwaukee.

He traces the trail with his finger — his WEDDING RING glints in the light.

  • THE AGENT
  • Who are you, you bastard? And where are you going?

LATER

The room is darker, the blue glow from the muted TV the only illumination. The Agent lies in bed, talks softly on his cell phone.

  • THE AGENT
  • –no, not really. The nightmares are getting worse… I know, honey… I miss you, too. God, I miss you. But if I don’t do this– I know. I love you… Yeah, I’ll call you tomorrow. ‘Night.

He hangs up and closes his eyes.

The gauzy curtains flutter in the breeze coming in the open window, the motel’s neon sign hazy through the curtains.

INT./EXT. THE FAN’S CAR/RURAL HIGHWAY – NITE

A beat-up old Ford, Ohio plates, chugs down the highway.

The Fan listens to an oldies station, hums along to “Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair.”

EXT. BAR PARKING LOT – NITE

The gravel parking lot is crowded with cars, but the only person around is an attractive young WOMAN (white, 20s) with long brown hair, who gets out of her car.

She stops to check her makeup in her reflection in the window of her car, but the CRUNCH of tires on gravel of another car as it pulls into the lot draws her attention.

THE GIRL

watches the car, O.S., pull up to her. She doesn’t know the driver, and looks away again.

She changes her mind and leans in the passenger side window with a flirty smile on her face.

  • WOMAN
  • Well, hi there, cutie.

INT. MOTEL #2 ROOM – MORNING

The Agent awakens with a start and a gasp, the sheets twisted tightly around him. He stares at the ceiling. His breathing slows.

INT. DINER – THAT MORNING

The Agent sits at a table near a window that faces the main street of a small Nebraskan town. His uneaten breakfast is pushed aside. He flips through the faxed forensics report, sips coffee as he reads.

The bells over the door JINGLE, and the Agent looks up to see SHERIFF #2 enter the diner. The sheriff looks grim.

  • THE AGENT
  • More faxes from the Bureau?
  • SHERIFF #2
  • No, sir. You’ve got everything that was sent over.

A dead silence while the sheriff stands before the Agent’s table. Other diners glance uneasily in their direction.

  • THE AGENT
  • What’s wrong?

The sheriff realizes they’re being watched and sits down across from the Agent, leans in conspiratorially close.

  • SHERIFF #2
  • It’s uncanny, sir. When you came into my stationhouse yesterday and asked if any girls had gone missing…
  • THE AGENT
  • Yeah?
  • SHERIFF #2
  • Well, I don’t have much truck with that profiling stuff….
  • THE AGENT
  • But?
  • SHERIFF #2
  • We got a report this morning.

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